Timbaland and Indian Music: A Match Made in Heaven?

In the 2000s, the producer sampled Bollywood classics to create some of his biggest hits. Many of the original artists have yet to reap any rewards.

GettyImages-141605057 Timbaland
Timbaland performs at Perez Hilton's One Night in Austin on March 17, 2012 in Austin, Texas (Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)

Ayesha Le Breton


February 26, 2024


12 min

First, we see the Taj Mahal against a pink sunset, then an elderly Indian man playing the recorder while a woman shimmies out of a wicker basket. In another shot, women donning maang tikkas surround music producer Timbaland. About 30 seconds in, the dancing woman croons “mera raja” in response to the rapper’s, “I got my eyes on you.” Everything — from the song title, “Indian Flute,” to women dancing in lehengas and temple stone carvings — conflates the song with India. Not to be limited by geography, the song also samples a 1993 Colombian track, “Curura,” by Totó la Momposina. 

“Indian Flute” (2003) was one of Timbaland’s most successful songs, part of a discography that defined 2000s hip-hop and pop. As a producer, he also crafted commercial hits for Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, Nelly Furtado, and others. What did they all have in common? Indian music.

Join today to read the full story.


Already a subscriber? Log in